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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium APPENDIX F - THE BOSTON HARBOR CASE: MANAGEMENT AND SCIENCE Michael Stewart Connor Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Introduction In 1977, Mike Bothner, a geochemist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole was frustrated. He was part of a group of marine scientists proposing to study issues they thought crucial to the ongoing environmental management debate about Boston Harbor, but he couldn't find an environmental manager interested in funding the study. Bothner's research project was evaluating where the 50 tons/day of sludge solids and 100 tons/day of sewage effluent produced by metropolitan Boston ended up after they were discharged into the deep waters of President Roads at the mouth of Boston Harbor. Earlier that year (1977) they had tried to interest the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), the state agency responsible for managing sewage discharges into Boston Harbor, into participating in his study, but they had told him: “We don't want science. We want answers.” The MDC was embroiled in determining whether the solution for addressing sewage contamination of the harbor should include applying for a waiver of secondary treatment and only providing primary treatment of sewage with a deep ocean outfall. MDC applied for the secondary treatment waiver in 1978, but it took the Environmental Protection Agency until 1984 to finally deny the waiver request. Ironically, one of the key issues in deciding the waiver was the inability to distinguish between the causal significance of different sources of pollution to the harbor (Connor et al., 1994), an issue that Bothner's research addressed. Bothner's science would have helped provide some of the answers that the MDC needed, but he couldn't convince MDC to invest in the science.
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium Sixteen years later, in 1993, Mike Bothner's colleagues at USGS, Rich Signell and Brad Butman, were asked by Massachusetts Congressman Gerry Studds to testify at a Congressional hearing in Boston about a joint project with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) that Bothner was managing. Butman and Signell presented a color video of a sophisticated 3-D circulation model that they had developed to analyze the impacts of MWRA's proposed sewage outfall on the health of the Massachusetts Bay ecosystem. The model proved essential in convincing the regulatory agencies and the public that the proposed outfall, an integral part of the entire Boston Harbor Project, would not jeopardize the health of the Massachusetts Bay ecosystem while extensively improving the health of Boston Harbor. Why had the level of participation of scientists in the Boston Harbor Project changed so dramatically? What makes the relationship between scientists and managers work? This case study tries to address these complicated questions. While to some extent the ingredients of good interactions are elusive, the relationship between scientists and managers requires at least two components that are essential for any relationship to work: commitment and communication. Commitment To work most effectively, scientists and managers must work together over the long term. The time frame for scientific studies, policy planning, and implementation can take several years to decades. Therefore, it is essential that all parties feel some sense of long-term commitment from the other parties (Table 1). MDC's budget was so constrained in the late 1970s (see Levy and Connor, 1992) that they were unable to make any long-term commitment to capital improvements to the region's sewage infrastructure, much less to the funding of science to address long-term needs. As part of the settlement of the Clean Water Act violations associated with sewage discharges to the harbor, nearly $2 million in funding was made available to study the impacts of wastewater discharges to the harbor and the neighboring coastal waters. These fines monies served as seed money to initiate National Estuary Program funding to the Massachusetts Bays Program and provided some stimulus to the start-up of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Enviroment. Besides funding there was also an institutional recognition of the importance of science in the evaluation of MWRA outfall siting and discharges. The state made a commitment to ensuring detailed peer review of major environmental projects. Massachusetts' Secretary of Environmental Affairs James Hoyte formed a Technical Advisory Group comprising marine scientists from the region's academic and consulting community. Finally, MWRA 's Board of Directors established the Harbor Studies program that provided them with formal scientific input in an agency dominated by sanitary engineers. MWRA's Harbor Studies program quickly established a Cooperative Research Agreement with the USGS to develop circulation models to help determine how sewage effluent and particulates were transported around the bay.
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium To complement these managerial commitments, the Sea Grant Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other entities demonstrated their commitment to Boston Harbor issues by forming the Massachusetts Bay Consortium, which served as a focal point for discussion by regional scientists of the nature of Massachusetts Bays management problems and the development of a research agenda for solving these problems. Even more importantly, they demonstrated their commitment by re-directing some of their own sources of money to focus on these problems through cost-sharing arrangements with the MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Sea Grant programs. More recently, the University of Massachusetts-Boston Urban Harbors Institute, the Mass Bays Program, and the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management jointly sponsored the development of a statewide coastal monitoring effort. Finally, USGS used its Cooperative Research Agreement with the MWRA to seek further national funding by marketing its Massachusetts Bays work as a testing ground for the development of sediment assessment protocols. Table 1 Commitment of Politicians, Managers, and Scientists Has Markedly Increased THEN NOW Of Managers Little Institutional Commitment Clean Water Act Fines Money Mass Bays Program Technical Advisory Group Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Harbor Studies MWRA/U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Cooperative Agreement Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Of Scientists Scattered Projects Mass Bays Consortium Sea Grant research and workshops University of Massachusetts monitoring initiative USGS research program Of Politicians Divided Representation Rep. Studds Coastal District Rep. Studds Hearings A political re-alignment provided the last set of commitments. During the 1980s, the Massachusetts Bays system fell into more than a half dozen Congressional districts. This fragmented representation made it difficult for any one representative to focus on the health of the Bays system as a whole. Following the 1990 census, Massachusetts lost a
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium Congressional district, forcing a significant re-drawing of district lines. Rather fortuitously, Congressman Gerry Studds' district was expanded to include all of Massachusetts Bay from Quincy to Provincetown. Congressman Studds had focussed on issues of marine resources protection for many years as a senior member of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, and he immediately became the most active political champion of the health of the Bays ecosystem as a whole, holding Congressional hearings in 1993 on the scientific understanding of the impacts of MWRA's wastewater discharges on the health of the Massachusetts Bays ecosystem, particularly the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. Communication Commitment is maintained, re-affirmed, and nurtured by strong communication among scientists, managers, and the public (Table 2). The first requirement is an easy point of entry for scientists and managers into each other's domain. A central point of contact demonstrates the institutional acceptance (and more importantly encouragement and reward) for conducting science in support of policy and the follow-through to ensure that commitments are met. Strong science-policy links have existed where there is upper-level institutional support in academia (for instance, John Knauss at the University of Rhode Island, Jerry Schubel at SUNY, Stony Brook, or Don Boesch at the University of Maryland (see Connor, 1987)). Massachusetts has so many academic institutions involved in studying the marine ecosystem that “one-stop shopping” is difficult. The formation of the Massachusetts Bays consortium cited earlier provided some focus. In addition, the NOAA Sea Grant programs at WHOI and MIT provided a locus for planning and funding Massachusetts Bays research. Initially, the scientific community had very few places in the management agencies to go where their scientific issues were understood. Beginning in 1982, EPA Region I and later the Office of Coastal Zone Management hired Ph.D. scientists who could translate between the agencies' management mandates and the scientific studies required. MWRA followed suit in 1988 with the initiation of its Harbor Studies program. Once communication centers are in place, there must be a formal way that scientists can understand the managerial agenda and that managers can understand the scientific assessments that must be undertaken to forward that agenda. In addition, the development of policy and research agendas are constantly changing as a result of political developments, new research findings, and the overall social and economic milieu. These managerial and scientific issues and approaches were slowly defined through informal workshops, committee meetings, and formal symposia. The Massachusetts Bays Program began by developing annual work plans and eventually a draft Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP). The first prioritized research approach was developed by the Mass Bays Consortium, and this program provided much of the blueprint for the studies ultimately funded by the Massachusetts Bays Program (MBP). MWRA's monitoring plan was formally
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium adopted by the outside oversight group, the Outfall Monitoring Taskforce (OMTF) after about a year of extensive and frequent meetings. USGS 's annual work plan was integrated into this monitoring plan. After data collection efforts were underway, it became clear that a 3-dimensional circulation and water quality model would be a useful tool for organizing and interpreting much of the water quality information. As in the Chesapeake and Long Island Sound, a Model Evaluation Group was formed to critique model development and the associated data collection. Table 2 Improvements in Communication Between Managers and Scientists THEN NOW Scientist Contact No Clear Lead Mass Bay Consortium Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Sea Grant Offices Managerial Contact Few agency scientists Mass Bays Program (MBP) Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Harbor Studies Management Issues Defined None MBP Plan MBP Work plans State of Harbor Report Scientific Approach Defined None Circulation/Water Quality model Consortium work plan MWRA Monitoring Plan U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Annual Plan Scientific Findings to Managers Journal articles Mass Bay Symposium Sea Grant book News Media Little Interest Extensive coverage by Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Patriot Ledger, and Cape Cod Times Public Info None Sea Grant Seminars New England Aquarium Harbor room Model Animation Environmental Activists Few scientists on staff or board of directors Extensive use of scientists as staff or board members by Boston-area groups
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium Once data have been collected and interpreted by scientists, the information must be presented in a context usable by managers. Historically, the scientific literature on Boston Harbor had been mostly inaccessible to regional managers. The findings were buried in journal articles where their relevance to the dilemmas faced by the managers was not explicit. The Mass Bays Consortium began to solve this problem by organizing jointly with other state and academic entities an annual symposium with invited speakers from both the managerial and scientific communities. MIT Sea Grant further refined this approach by putting together a series of scientific papers concerned with sediment management with some concluding chapters written by regional managers. Even these summary formats were too complicated for the general public and news media to understand. In 1990, MWRA began to publish its annual State of the Harbor report to address this larger audience and released the report publicly at the Mass Bays Symposium as well as holding press conferences for local media to present short “sound bites” that would get the information on television news. Spurred on by the public controversy surrounding the Boston Harbor Project, the news media became increasingly sophisticated in their reporting of the scientific issues, publishing several hundred stories each year in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Patriot Ledger, and the Cape Cod Times. Once the information was available, other groups became interested in alternative ways to package and present it through public seminars (Sea Grant), museum exhibits (New England Aquarium), and computer model animations (USGS and Hydroqual). Besides these educational institutions, environmental activists can also be strong allies in furthering our understanding of marine pollution and resource management. Historically, the Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod had been the most strongly aligned with the scientific community through its active recruitment of scientists for its Board of Directors. Over time the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Safer Waters in Massachusetts (SWIM), and the Massachusetts Audubon Society extensively recruited top-level scientists onto their Board of Directors and staff. As a result, the positions developed by the environmental groups became much more technically sophisticated, without sacrificing advocacy. MWRA's Outfall Monitoring Program The results of these improvements in commitment and communication can be seen in the structure of MWRA's monitoring in Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay (Figure 1). The program is marked by extensive linkages to research conducted by NOAA Sea Grant, USGS, and the Massachusetts Bays Program. The program's strategy, protocols, and findings are extensively reviewed by regulatory and public oversight groups, as well as scientific peer reviewers from inside and outside the region. Monitoring findings are used by MWRA to determine its engineering design priorities, specific facilities planning, and to defend its plans in the regulatory arena. Finally, annual findings are summarized in the State of the Harbor report.
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium This structure has three benefits for MWRA's goal of maximizing the technical defensibility of its projects: Buy-In. Extensive review and oversight provides greater acceptance of monitoring findings and subsequent management decisions. Pay-Out. Funding resources are never sufficient to implement the entire scientific program necessary to fully support management decisions. By building links to the research community, these funds can be supplemented by outside programs. In addition, scientists seek out Boston Harbor as a place for research because a large ancillary data set is being collected that can magnify the value of their research. Comparative Shopping. The use of different types of contractors to conduct the work allows different research functions to be implemented by the most appropriate agencies. For instance, the USGS is unable to respond to competitive Requests for Proposals. By developing a separate Cooperative Research Agreement with the USGS for circulation modeling, MWRA was able to use USGS's special expertise at a cost far below that provided by outside contractors. Future Challenges The impetus to merge science and policy closely in the Boston Harbor Project was made easier by the large economic consequences of making the wrong technical choices in a $4 billion project. Now that much of the crisis surrounding the harbor has passed, it will become more difficult to retain the commitment of all parties compared to future complicated issues facing Massachusetts coastal waters. But the infrastructure of relationships and experience will make similar coordination between scientists and managers easier. References Connor, M.S. 1987. Developing a technical program to support estuarine management: A comparison of three northeastern estuaries. Pp. 503-511 in Estuarine and Coastal Management—Tools of the Trade. Proceedings of the 10th National Conference of the Coastal Society. Coastal Society, New Orleans, La. Connor, M.S., M.J. Mickelson, and K.E. Keay. 1994. Wastewater discharge to Massachusetts Bay: Environmental monitoring changes the problem definition. Pp. 469-480 in Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation 67th Annual Conference and Exposition: Volume IV, Surface Water Quality and Ecology. Water Environment Federation, Alexandria, Virginia.
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium Levy, P.F., and M.S. Connor. 1992. The Boston Harbor cleanup. New England Journal of Public Policy 8(2):91-104.
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Improving Interactions Between Coastal Science and Policy: Proceedings of the Gulf of Maine Symposium Figure 1 MWRA's Outfall Monitoring Plan integrates participation from many agencies and institutions.
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